We’re deep in the forest, running through a ground of thick leaves, chasing the cutest, happiest dog in existence. Bianco is a truffle-hunting dog, and is having, quite literally, a field day in the grounds of the Toscana Resort in Castelfalfi. It’s private grounds, so every day, she has the pick of truffles. A few hours later, we find thick, circular shavings of the same truffle flaked on our pizza. Truly, that’s a lifetime memory formed right there.
Truffle-hunting and fine dining are but two Italian-esque activities on offer at this resort village. To clarify, Castelfalfi used to be a farming village, but as locals left for the city, it was taken over by TUI and brought back to life as a village-sized luxury holiday resort, complete with two hotels, wildlife park, forest, villas, spa and golf course.
This premise was enough to lure us over for a long weekend to check out the set-up and the experience for ourselves.
The grounds of the resort village are less than an hour away from Pisa Airport, and encompass 100 hectares of rolling hills. At its very top, Castelfalfi Castle sits atop, with spectacular views all around. At the time of our visit, the first autumn colours begin to turn, it’s beyond beautiful. Just imagine the most typical image of Tuscany, with cypress frees growing tall and roads snaking between the hills – the kind of scene you think can’t actually exist. But it does.
The hotel is a couple of minutes away from the castle – which now houses a cellar gallery and Michelin-endorsed restaurant – past a dainty high street with a handful of shops to cater for guests, and a church where weddings take place.
The only aspect that might not sit right is that the whole village is owned by TUI – so the only residents within the village are staff, holidaymakers and the odd villager who refused to budge. That means it’s better holiday choice for families after a reliable experience than culture vultures out for a slice of authentic Italian life.
A luxurious size and with huge windows that face the Tuscan countryside, the rooms are instantly appealing – I just wish each room had a balcony to make the most of the stunning views and good weather. But there’s much to enjoy in the room itself; the bed are divine, with the most marshmallowy duvets and pillows I’ve experienced for a while – no wonder I got a solid night’s sleep every night. The small details are perfect: there are plenty USB ports, some by the bed, and a master light switch that avoids endless faffing.
Castelfalfi certainly replicates the feel of a village, and if that wasn’t evident in its surrounds, it is with the staff. They’re helpful, unintrusive (maybe not so much like a village then), and total pros.
Moreover, there’s a tempting amount of activities on offer. The golf course is immensely scenic, budding chefs can take a cookery class using vegetables from their kitchen garden, and the spa is huge. There’s an indoor and outdoor pool, and the wet area has a couple of steam rooms and saunas, plus the dreaded water bucket for cooling off if you dare. I arrive there just in time to join the group scrubbing ritual in the steam room, which made me feel a million dollars even before I began my massage treatment (verdict: the single most relaxing thing you can do here).
Don’t leave without going truffle hunting, and if the weather is good, try renting e-bikes to explore the breadth of the Tuscan countryside. Even for unfit novices like me, it’s a breeze.
Food and drink 5/5
It’s Italy, how can it be anything less than full marks? Breakfast is exceptional, with an excellent range of fruits, cereals and milks (even lactose-free milk). I rotated between their three varieties of overnight oats, and tried out the Toscana omelette, which used Pecorino cheese and Panzanella salad as the filling – which worked out deliciously except for the cucumber.
Whether in their main dining room, La Via del Sale, or Castelfalfi’s gourmet restaurant La Rocca, lunch and dinner are a treat for the tastebuds. The food uses the basic Italian principle of only using two or three flavours per dish, but ensuring the ingredients are top-notch – the spaghetti pomodoro at La Via del Sale is simplicity at its finest – although the elaborate truffle ravioli at La Rocca is admittedly a gourmand’s dream too. And no matter if you prefer Pinot Grigio, Montepulciano or Prosecco, the Italian wine served is outstanding – and difficult to not drink it like water.
About an hour before sunset, grab a giant beanie bag, order a glass of Aperol Spritz, and reserve your spot for the natural light show – it’s a phenomenal array of yellows, oranges, reds and purples.
Shilpa was a guest of Il Castlelfalfi, Tuscany, Italy. Rooms at the hotel, a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, start from £277 per night.